Sunday, February 20, 2005

TODAY IS REFERENDUM DAY in Spain; the so-called European Constitution (which is an unappropriate denomination, since it actually is an international treaty) gets voted today. The biggest fear by Zapatero's government is in case the voter turnout is really low, since the whole thing would be a real slap in the face of the Prime Minister utopian pro-European stance. A "yes" vote is virtually assured, after the propaganda campaign (and I mean, propaganda) and since the main party in opposition, the right-of-center Popular Party is also for a yes vote. I guess they won't cry much much if the turnout is low, though.

We will keep you updated through the day. Polling stations will close at 8pm local time (7pm GMT, 2pm EST), and that's when exit polls will be available (it's not legal here to publish them during the day, so they don't have an influence in the vote). Official results will be announced about 2 hours after that. So far, the only official data which has been released is the turnout at 3pm: 21.63%.

Which is really low; this would mean that the total turnout would be between 35 and 40%. Next official data of turnout, at 7pm local time (6pm GMT, 1pm EST), just one hour before the polling stations close.

UPDATE. Well, the next data of the provisional official turnout were released half an hour earlier than expected: at 6.35 pm local time (5.35 pm GMT, 12.35 pm EST) the turnout was 32,92%. I think it's more than likely that the final percentage will be just below 40%.

UPDATE II. Polling stations have just been closed, and the first exit poll (in fact, the only one since it's been purchased by the pool of all MSM) has been released:

Turnout: 41%

Yes: 77/80%

No: 15/17%

Blank: 5/6%

(blank votes is a third possibility for people who wanted to vote, but wanted neither a "yes" nor a "no" vote; historically, it's approx 2/3%, so it's double than usual).

As I said, this is only a poll and not the official results. It remains to be seen whether there'll be any hidden "no" vote, that is, people not willing to admit openly and in a loud voice to a pollster outside the station that they voted "no". My guess, due to the social pressure for the "yes" is that there will be some, but obviously not as much as to make a significant change (maybe a one-digit difference).

The most remarkable thing is that the low turnout seems to be confirmed, and it's very significant: even if, say, 75% of people voted "yes", it would be a 75% of a 40% turnout, meaning roughly that the European "Constitution" would be actively supported by only 30% of eligible voters. That's extremely, extremely low, and against what Zapatero was hoping: an example of Europeanness to other countries that have planned a similar vote. If the most pro-European country -according to all polls- manages to get a 40% turnout only, what will happen, say, in the much more Euro-skeptic UK? I'm sure Zapatero will spin this result as a triumph (one of his party's deputies has just said so), but actually it's almost a death blow continent-wise.

Official results will be available at 9.30 pm local time, approximately (8.30 pm GMT; 1.30 pm EST). Will keep you posted.

UPDATE III. Final turnout should have been announced already, but they haven't updated the 33.04% data corresponding to 6.35 pm. Broadcast network Tele 5 wonders why, and mentions "what seems to be some kind of blackout". Is it because it's lower than what the poll suggests, and it's going to be lower than 40%?

UPDATE IV. At 9 pm local time (8 pm GMT, 3 pm EST), and 66.72% counted votes:

Turnout: 42.10%

Yes: 76.95%

No: 17.01%

Blank: 6.03%

UPDATE V. Almost final official results, from a press conference by the deputy Prime Minister (yes, the one who said she didn't want to be confused for Claudia Shiffer, as if there was any risk, as you'll see on the link) and Interior minister:

Counted votes: 93.54%

Turnout: 42.43%

Yes: 76.49%

No: 17.43%

They don't mention the blank votes, maybe because they're the most embarrassing kind of all: 6.08%.

PM Zapatero is expected to speak in some minutes, and he's likely to tout the results as a victory. I wouldn't say so: after all, it's been the lowest turnout of Spain's democratic period since the death of Franco in 1975. Just as comparison, the previous record low was in June 2004 in the vote for the European Parliament (turnout: 45.94%). On March 14, the turnout on the general election three days after the Madrid terrorist attacks was 77.29%.

UPDATE VI. In two autonomous communities with strong nationalistic -even pro-independence- forces, the results are worse for Zapatero:

Catalonia (where Zapatero's coalition partners were campaigning for a "No" vote):

Turnout: 40.97%

Yes: 64.63%

No: 28.08%

Blank: 7.29%

Basque Country:

Turnout: 38.75%

Yes: 62.61%

No: 33.66%

Blank: 3.73%